The Impact Of Trauma On Teens And How To Address It

Trauma is a scary uncomfortable word. No one wants to wrap their head around the thought of someone they care about being traumatized. Why talk about it? Why not just push it to the way side? The truth is, as humans we may want to block out harmful experiences with the hope it will just go away. Trauma does not just go away; this is where acknowledging and seeking treatment is super important. If we have someone in our lives who has faced trauma, our approach is important. Age of trauma’s onset is also something to take into consideration. Take a deep breath and know that there are some strategies in dealing with teenage trauma and how to provide help.

Here’s the deal when anyone has been subjected to a traumatic experience, it doesn’t go away. When either individually or as a family there is a ‘shushing’ of the situation it becomes like boiling a pot of pasta. Visualize this with me. You place a pot of water on the stove and crank the heat up and walk away. I forgot to add, the lid is on. You return 45 minutes later. Take the lid off. What happens? Steam and scalding hot water will greet you. It hurts.

It’s the same with trauma. We can put a lid on it, but one way or another it will manifest itself into something negative. Maybe that’s gravitating towards unhealthy friends or toxic dating relationships. It could be emotionally shutting down or becoming volatile. This hurt seeps out in some way. It will always find a way to rear its ugly head no matter how hard one may try to keep in contained. You can’t contain an emotionally jostled, wrung out heart. It isn’t fair to try to or expect someone who has faced a trauma to just get over it.

The impact of trauma on teenagers…

Unless our kids are able to be free from the shackles of whatever they have been through it holds them captive in some form or another. There is a lack of ability to move forward. It’s a stuck you don’t know how to break free from. It can feel as though it can and will consume you.

Trauma has an impact, but add this to a teenager whose brain has yet developed and you have a lot on your plate. Everyone reacts or suppresses differently. We don’t always know the abuse our kids have been through, sometimes they stay quiet and it implodes in one way or another. That’s where dialogue and chatting is super important. Why are they acting a certain way? What are the triggers? As a parent we may think, why would then not tell me something like this? Well, when you feel what has happened is uncomfortable and embarrassing it is easy to clam up. The impact of trauma on teenagers is layered and runs deep.

What are some traumas our kids can/have face:

  • sexual abuse/assault

  • physical abuse

  • emotional abuse

  • sudden loss of a loved one

  • bullying

  • witness to a form of natural disaster

  • abandonment from a love one

  • watching a parent overdose/be violent

  • and a hundred other ‘things.

It’s tough stuff, but this is where counseling and long term maintenance is so crucial. It’s scary to take that first step for a kid, sometimes it can feel emotionally paralyzing. What will people think? Am I a burden to someone else? Can I ever be fixed? Is this going to destroy my family? Will people look or treat me differently? Will things ever be normal again? These are all legit, common mindsets. Trauma traps us in the past and those who have been subjected to this deserve to become a survivor in exchange for victim.

Repeat after me, “allow them to be a survivor, not a victim.”

If you have faced or are facing something or if your kids have, it’s so important to not act weird about it. It’s a part of you, it does not have to define you. When we act awkward or weird about ‘it,’ our kids will be less likely to chat and seek help and encouragement. Counseling (with the right person) is SO important. The emotional yuck and gook attached to trauma is tough stuff that is not a quick fix. Unlike when we take our cars in for an oil change, the in an out every six month maintenance strategy will not suffice. Counseling is emotional maintenance.

Teenage trauma and how to provide help…

  • Listen more, talk less.

  • Encourage counseling – chatting with someone neutral, yet professional is important

  • Buddy system – if there is a connection with an older family member or friend a connection isn’t a bad thing. This isn’t necessarily about hitting on heavy stuff, just an ear to hear and a shoulder to lean on. We all need support.

  • Empathize- love on them and hear them, but you will not nor will you ever understand exactly how they feel. You can’t.

  • Assure them – let them know you love them, this is not their fault and both they and your family will survive this.

If you or someone you love have been subjected to any form of trauma, help is so very important in the healing process. We are not intended to go at it alone. The first step is scary, but it can be a life altering step towards health and healing.

Wishing you a week of self care, big steps and knowing that you are not alone.

Peace, Love & Goodness. – Erin

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